Aw, Cliff Lee — I wish you weren't such a decent, admirable fellow. I admire you for not allowing money to rule your life — but I hate you, just the same, for spurning my beloved New York Yankees!
Lee turned down an offer from the New York Yankees that was worth slightly more than the Philadelphia Phillies' proposal of $120 million spread over five years, meaning he'll be paid a cool $24 million a year.
The Yankees are the King Kongs of Major League Baseball. They have the most money (by far) to offer a free agent player, such as Lee.
The Yankees are used to outbidding every other team and spending whatever it takes. That's why the team has the highest payroll in sports, clocking in at about $200 million, give or take. The crosstown rival New York Mets look like tightwads by having a payroll of some $135 million.
But Cliff Lee defied gravity this month. Lee turned down the Yankees — and New York City — to play in Philadelphia for the powerful Phillies. New Yorkers, naturally, are taking it very personally — heck, we take a snowfall very personally.
Lee chose a better quality of life over the biggest bucks. Apparently, he had no great desire to have to answer to the uber-demanding New York media and fan base.
I really can't blame him. Deep down, I am heartened by a pro athlete who had the sense and discipline to reject money, for the sake of money.
Lee is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. His post-season record is unparalleled in the annals of today's sport. He is at his best under pressure on the mound — and, evidently, off it as well.
Lee showed that he can make a tough decision, just as he is capable of making clutch pitches to win games for his team. The man deserves our respect, as much as I wish he pitched for the Yankees.
I don't expect others to follow Cliff Lee's example. But it would be refreshing if he was setting a trend.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.
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